The Worlds Famous Orations. Great Britain: I. (7101777). 1906.
The Second Sermon on the Card
Hugh Latimer (1485?1555)
Born about 1485, died in 1555; accused of heresy in 1532, and recanted; became a Royal Chaplain in 1534; made Bishop of Worcester in 1535, but in 1539 resigned; later, identified himself closely with the Reformation; arrested and sent to the Tower in 1553, and burned at Oxford in 1555.
NOW,1 you have heard what is meant by this first card, and how you ought to play it. I purpose again to deal unto you another card, almost of the same suit; for they be of so nigh affinity, that one can not well be played without the other. The first card declared that you should not kill, which might be done in divers ways, as being angry with your neighbor, in mind, in countenance, in word, or deed; it declared also, how you should subdue the passions of ire, and so clear evermore yourselves from them. And whereas this first card doth kill in you these stubborn Turks of ire, this second card will not only they should be mortified in you, but that you yourselves shall cause them to be likewise mortified in your neighbor, if that your said neighbor hath been through your occasion moved unto ire, either in countenance, word, or deed. Now let us hear, therefore, the tenor of this card: When thou makest thine oblation at Mine altar, and there dost remember that thy neighbor hath anything against thee, lay down there thine oblation, and go first and reconcile thy neighbor, and then come and offer thine oblation.
This card was spoken by Christ, as testifieth St. Matthew in his fifth chapter, against all such as do presume to come unto the Church to make oblation unto God, either by prayer, or any other deed of charity, not having their neighbors reconciled. Reconciling is as much to say as to restore thy neighbor unto charity, which by thy words or deeds is moved against thee; then, if so be that thou hast spoken to or by thy neighbor, whereby he is moved to ire or wrath, thou must lay down thine oblation. Oblations be prayers, alms-deeds, or any work of charity; these be all called oblations to God. Lay down, therefore, thine oblation; begin to do none of these foresaid works before thou goest unto thy neighbor and confesseth thy fault unto him; declaring thy mind, that if thou hast offended him, thou art glad and willing to make him amends, as far forth as thy words and substance will extend, requiring him not to take it at the worst; thou art sorry in thy mind that thou shouldst be occasion of his offending.
A true and faithful servant, whensoever his master commandeth him to do anything, he maketh no stops nor questions, but goeth forth with a good mind; and it is not unlike he, continuing in such a good mind and will, shall well overcome all dangers and stops, whatsoever betide him in his journey, and bring to pass effectually his masters will and pleasure. On the contrary, a slothful servant, when his master commandeth him to do anything, by and by he will ask questionssuch as, Where? When? Which way? and so forth; and so he putteth everything in doubt, that altho both his errand and way be never so plain, yet by his untoward and slothful behavior his masters commandment is either undone quite, or else so done that it shall stand to no good purpose.
Go now forth with the good servant, and ask no such questions, and put no doubts. Be not ashamed to do thy Masters and Lords will and commandment. Go, as I said, unto thy neighbor that is offended by thee, and reconcile him, as is aforesaid, whom thou hast lost by thine unkind words, by thy scorns, mocks and other disdainous words and behaviors; and be not nice to ask of him the cause why he is displeased with thee; require of him charitably to remit; and cease not till you both depart one from the other, true brethren in Christ.
Do not, like the slothful servant, thy masters message with cautels and doubts; come not to thy neighbor whom thou hast offended, and give him a pennyworth of ale, or a banquet, and so make him a fair countenance, thinking that by thy drink or dinner he will show thee like countenance. I grant you may both laugh and make good cheer, and yet there may remain a bag of rusty malice, twenty years old, in thy neighbors bosom. When he departeth from thee with a good countenance, thou thinkest all is well then. But now, I tell thee, it is worse than it was, for by such cloaked charity, where thou dost offend before Christ but once, thou hast offended twice herein; for now thou goest about to give Christ a mock, if He would take it of thee.
Thou thinkest to blind thy master Christs commandment. Beware, do not so, for at length He will overmatch thee and take thee tardy whatsoever thou be; and so, as I said, it should be better for thee not to do His message on this fashion, for it will stand thee in no purpose. What? some will say, I am sure he loveth me well enough; he speaketh fair to my face. Yet for all that thou mayest be deceived. It proveth not true love in a man, to speak fair. If he love thee with his mind and heart, he loveth thee with his eyes, with his tongue, with his feet, with his hands and his body: for all these parts of a mans body be obedient to the will and mind. He loveth thee with his eyes, that looketh cheerfully on thee when thou meetest with him, and is glad to see thee prosper and do well. He loveth thee with his tongue, that speaketh well by thee behind thy back, or giveth thee good counsel. He loveth thee with his hands, that will help thee in time of necessity, by giving some alms deeds or with any other occupation of the hand. He loveth thee with his body, that will labor with his body, or put his body in danger to do good for thee, or to deliver thee from adversity; and so forth, with the other members of his body.
Evermore bestow the greatest part of thy goods in works of mercy, and the less parts in voluntary works. Voluntary works be called all manner of offering in the church, except your four offering days and your tithes, setting up candles, gilding and painting, building of churches, giving of ornaments, going on pilgrimages, making of highways, and such other be called voluntary works; which works be of themselves marvelous good, and convenient to be done. Necessary works, and works of mercy, are called the Commandments, the four offering days, your tithes, and such other that belong to the Commandments; and works of mercy consist in relieving and visiting thy poor neighbors.
Now, then, if men be so foolish of themselves, that they will bestow the most part of their goods in voluntary works, which they be not bound to keep, but willingly and by their devotion, and leave the necessary works undone, which they are bound to do, they and all their voluntary works are like to go unto everlasting damnation. And I promise you, if you build a hundred churches, give as much as you can make to gilding of saints and honoring of the Church, and if thou go as many pilgrimages as thy body can well suffer, and offer as great candles as oaksif thou leave the works of mercy and the Commandments undone, these works shall nothing avail thee. No doubt the voluntary works be good and ought to be done; but yet they must be so done, that by their occasion the necessary works and the works of mercy be not decayed and forgotten.
If you will build a glorious church unto God, see first yourselves to be in charity with your neighbors, and suffer not them to be offended by your works. Then, when ye come into your parish church, you bring with you the holy temple of God; as St. Paul saith, You yourselves be the very holy temples of God; and Christ saith by His prophet, In you will I rest, and intend to make My mansion and abiding place. Again, if you list to gild and paint Christ in your churches and honor Him in vestments, see that before your eyes the poor people die not for lack of meat, drink, and clothing. Then do you deck the very true temple of God, and honor Him in rich vestures that will never be worn, and so forth use yourselves according to the Commandments; and then, finally, set up your candles, and they will report what a glorious light remaineth in your hearts; for it is not fitting to see a dead man light candles.
Then, I say, go your pilgrimages, build your material churches, do all your voluntary works; and they will then represent you unto God, and testify with you that you have provided Him a glorious place in your hearts. But beware, I say again, that you do not ran so far in your voluntary works that ye do quite forget your necessary works of mercy, which you are bound to keep; you must have ever a good respect unto the best and worthiest works toward God to be done first and with more efficacy, and the other to be done secondarily. Thus if you do, with the other that I have spoken of before, ye may come according to the tenor of your cards, and offer your oblations and prayers to our Lord Jesus Christ, who will both hear and accept them to your everlasting joy and glory; to the which He bring us, and all those whom He suffered death for. Amen.
Note 1. Preached at Cambridge in 1529, being one of the two sermons on the card. Latimers sermons were first collected in 1562. An annotated edition in two volumes, with a memoir by John Watkins, was published in 1824. A complete edition of his writings in two volumes, edited by George E. Corrie, was issued by the Parker Society in 1844. [back]